Tired of jumping from diet to diet? Try an 80/20 balance in mindful living that can help you stay in a happier, healthier place.


For some people, there may come a time when you feel like you’ve tried all the diets: macro counting, cutting out carbs, cleanses, and detoxes.

After many years of trial and error and living from one extreme to the next, you may find yourself craving a less rigid and more balanced approach to life.  While eating more intuitively and mindfully can be a great longer-term goal, some folks simply need a general set of guidelines to start off with to get them there.  

Enter: the 80/20 philosophy.  Yup, the “eat healthy 80 percent of the time, and treat-yo-self the other 20 percent” mentality.

After all, life is about balance.

If your favorite food on the planet is tacos, and you are on a diet that never lets you within 50 feet of a tortilla, your happiness will plummet. And while some people will tout ‘nothing tastes as good as skinny feels’, I beg to differ – in my humble opinion, tacos taste as good as skinny feels.

And since when does it have to be an either-or situation? If you focus on eating healthy 80% of the time, you can choose to indulge a bit for the other 20%, allowing yourself to nourish your body AND enjoy some of the finer things in life, like chips and guac. What we’re talking about here is not cutting out carbs Monday-Friday or having ‘cheat days’. It’s all about eating healthy, wholesome foods the majority of the time, but recognizing that you’re human and allowing yourself to splurge once in awhile. That way, when you reach for that ice cream bar after dinner, there is no guilt associated with it. This philosophy is all about total wellness – not just physical wellness.

It promotes emotional and mental well-being by allowing for flexibility and balance in your everyday life.

It is unfortunate that the word diet implies a temporary period of restrictions, excessive planning, and most likely, unhappiness. In the same manner that Rome wasn’t built in a day, your idea of a diet won’t unravel overnight. If you approach the 80/20 philosophy as a diet, you will undoubtedly fail. Why? Because this is not a short-term or quick-fix solution.

The 80/20 approach is a lifestyle. Food is part of everyone’s life, and the relationship you have with food should not be fear, animosity, or any other negative energy. The way that you think about food can totally impact your energy and mood the rest of the day.

So do yourself a favor and try this out for one month: think ONLY positive thoughts about food.

Whatever works for you to have positive thoughts about food (all food, including green vegetables!), do that. If it’s skimming through Pinterest for new healthy recipes to try at home, or driving a little further to go to your favorite farmers market across town, or challenging a colleague to a one-week brown bag exchange at lunch, I urge you to try it. Commit to having genuine energy about embracing food again. Try new flavors and recipes, focusing on eating a variety of foods that include whole grains, lean meats and beans, dairy, and fruits and vegetables 80% of the time.

Likewise, give that same energy to your 20% indulgences.

When you’re ready for an indulgence that you’re genuinely excited about, you shouldn’t have an ounce of guilt about it! Sometimes our indulgences even offer health benefits – dark chocolate and red wine, I’m looking at you: thanks for providing antioxidants that help remove toxins from our bodies.

But if you find yourself mindlessly reaching for a bag of Doritos while you watch the Bachelor, think it through. Do you actually like Doritos, or are you eating it just because you are just bored?  Is there something else you’d rather enjoy? Are you really hungry or just snacking to snack? Asking these questions will help you become more attuned to what your body really wants and needs.

Take a minute to really think about how hard your body works for you, and recognize that we don’t give our bodies nearly enough credit.  Your body does SO much for you everyday – you have to love it and nourish it from the inside out if you want it to keep loving you back. That may mean a delicious salad at lunch and grilled veggies at dinner, but occasionally, that may mean Belgian waffles and mimosas at brunch. At the end of the day, you have to treat your body like you love it.

After all, it’s the only place you have to live in this world.

Adapted from the original article.

Marissa Thiry, RDN is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in Orange County, CA with a passion for health, wellness, and delicious food. With her love of innovating in the kitchen and testing unique flavors from different cultures, Marissa helps others understand that eating should be an experience, not a task. Make a visit to read more from Marissa.